Tromsø & Sustainability – Before and After COVID-19

This blog text is a summary of one the three Grennovation Camp keynote presentations. Lone Helle and Inger-Lise Brones from Visit Tromsø-Region AS presented the sustainability development in the largest destination company in Norway, as well as the effect of COVID-19 for the travel industry in Tromsø.

During the past 10 years before the pandemic, tourism in Tromsø had grown fast and travel industry had become the second largest value creator in the area. Event though flourishing tourism had brought economical growth to the region, the increasing number of visitors was also causing problems: busses were blocking the main street in Tromsø and tourists were trespassing people’s back yards or taking pictures of kindergarten children. The challenges were portrayed in the surveys done as a part of the sustainable travelling strategy work in 2018. 38 percent of the residents reported negative experiences related to tourism and 35 percent expressed their worry that tourism might decrease their quality of life in the future.

After two years of work and gathering information from local travel companies, residents and guests, Visit Tromsø in cooperation with Tromsø municipality finished a strategy for the whole travelling industry in the region in 2019. The strategy aimed for increasing awareness of sustainable tourism. This includes, for example, value creation by involving the local people, highlighting the local culture and history, as well as, creating general guidelines for travellers in the area. The persistent work was rewarded in 2019 when Tromsø, as the first city in Norway, received a sustainable destination certificate.

The hit of the global pandemic in Tromsø region can be described as devastating as it meant nearly a full stop for tourism in the area. For example, the income from sold activities in Visit Tromsø dropped from NOK 9 million in 2020 to 100 000 NOK in 2021. On the other hand, the pandemic became a starting point for new cooperation between different stakeholders in the industry. The focuses of the strategy work for the coming years have been defined as green shift, digitalization and destination management which considers, not just individual players’ interests, but the needs of the community as a whole.

Blog text by:
Henna Kukkonen, Lapland University of Applied Sciences